There’s been a lot of wildlife activity in my yard this month. Beyond the sparrows that nest every year in my neighbor’s eaves, we seem to have a plethora of robins bringing up their young’uns as well. My neighbor Dennis has robins nesting in the Japanese Maple in his front yard. I came home the other day to find the little fellow pictured above sitting in the rhododendron at our property lines. He could fly, but just barely. Mommy was in the vicinity, but not paying a lot of attention as I took his photo (she could have at least combed his hair). Later on he moved into my lilac bush and sat there quietly as darkness fell. A few days later I saw him flying clumsily around the yard, so I guess he’ll be okay.
Early this week I was talking to Stephen Gregory on the phone in the kitchen. As I was talking, I glanced out the window and saw Dennis’ daughter letting her Doberman out into the yard; I turned my back and a second later, heard something hit the kitchen window with a thump. I made some exclamation of surprise and told Stephen that I thought a bird had just flown into the window. I had a quick look outside but didn’t see anything. The next day I was doing some yard work and heard a rustle behind a trash can near the kitchen door. When I moved it, I found a Mourning Dove huddled behind it. The bird could walk and move its wings, but it didn’t appear to be able to fly. I put on some gloves, picked it up and gave it a quick once-over. It seemed to be fine – its wings and feet were uninjured – so I’m assuming it was startled by the dog the day before, flew into my kitchen window in its panic, and perhaps bruised its breastbone or got busted in some other way. I carried it to the back of the yard and released it into some bushes, where it would be in the shade. Haven’t seen it since, so I’m hoping it recovered and is back with the other doves at my feeders.
After the Busted Bird incident, I sat down on the kitchen stoop for a few minutes. It was a really pretty day and I was just sitting there quietly when I saw some movement near the bushes in Dennis’ yard. A moment later a plump little chipmunk skittered out, went through the chainlink and into my vegetable garden, where he stopped and peered in my direction. (I believe mentioned in an earlier blog that chipmunks den underneath the kitchen stoop.) He backed up, ran behind the potato plants, then looked out at me again. I didn’t move. The chipmunk ran underneath the Santa Sweet tomato plant, sat up on its haunches and looked at me earnestly. This is the same chipmunk (or one of its brethren) that I occasionally startle when I’m walking around the front yard; it has the endearing habit of running up the drainpipe and squealing in terror until I go away; not the best way to deter a predator. I can only assume that it couldn’t comprehend what this great hulk was, sitting on its roof. It came closer, whiskers and silly little tail quivering, until it was only a few feet away. I expect that if I’d stayed still long enough, it might have gone into its den via the crack in the steps just under my feet, but I couldn’t contain myself and I laughed.
The chipmunk let out a squeal (the chippie equivalent of “WHAAAAA!!!”), leapt about a foot into the air and bolted into the front yard. I waited for a while to see if it would come back, but when I finally stood up and looked into the driveway, I could see it watching me resentfully from the shade under my car. I went back into the house so the chippie could get into his nice cool den.
Over the past couple of days, every time I’ve gone out on my deck, I’ve noticed a robin fly out from under it, making distress calls. When I investigated yesterday, I discovered that said robin has built a nest on one the support beams beneath the deck. If I peer through the deck’s planking at a certain place, I can look right into the nest. Yesterday there were two bright blue eggs in it; this morning I crept out barefoot to have a look and looked right down onto the mommy bird’s back as she sat warming her babies. I don’t like to disturb her as I’m afraid she’ll abandon the nest, but my grill’s on the deck and I have brined chicken to cook this afternoon – so it’ll have to be a Stealth Barbeque.
John doesn’t quite get my fascination with our furred and feathered neighbors (and if truth be told, I think he’d like to shoot the birds, as they always seem to converge on his car when it’s time to crap). But I enjoy having them around. They’re far quieter than some of our human neighbors, and a lot more entertaining to watch.